Marie Ericson | Pulling a Dream From the Pantry

It is Thursday night and I am once again staring into my pantry wondering what to make for dinner.  That feeling of confusion and wonder sometimes mixed with hopefulness and possibility. It’s a similar feeling I get on Monday morning when I stare at the business suits in my closet and reach for the yoga pants and wonder what my next step should be to get back in those suits, or if I even want to get back into the suits.

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I look into my cupboard every night. I make dinner every night. I love to cook. I thrive on figuring out what to make with what I have on hand. Over the last few years, I’ve built up a blog that focuses on what I end up making each night for my family. Other than my family, cooking has been my focus, my joy, my love.

Now I am ready to go back to work. Like when I first look in my pantry, I am not quite sure what to do next. While I have practiced immigration law, have helped numerous victims of domestic violence, asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking and other immigrants who are looking for the American dream, I am looking for that American dream myself.

I was born in South Africa. We moved to the U.S. when I was 2 years old.  It was supposed to be temporary, for my dad to finish his post doc. My parents wanted more opportunities for my brothers and me, so it became permanent. We were lucky that my dad had a university on our side to help with the process toward citizenship.

I have been lucky to have had the opportunities to go to college in Washington DC, law school in Seattle, WA and become a lawyer, mother, wife and friend that hopefully make the sacrifice my parents made worth it. As the mother of a 4.5 year old and 2 year old twins, time to myself for informational interviews, networking, the research I dreamed I would work on while home with the kids, and some days even showering, is not possible.

I want to be able to be a role model for my children. I want to make a difference and help people. I know, it sounds hokey and idealistic, but knowing that my work has made it possible for someone else to succeed, makes me feel successful.

After reading Ann Marie Slaughter’s recent article in The Atlantic on women not being able to have it all, I don’t know if I am encouraged or discouraged. I find myself stuck between wanting to work, but needing it to pay enough to put my three children in childcare, while still being able to make it home to cook and have a healthy dinner together.

Am I crazy? Does this exist?

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By taking stock of what is in my pantry I know I can be better prepared to make a meal. By taking stock of my skills and experiences can I be better prepared to make a new career or get back into my former work or start something new altogether? There are websites that allow you to type in the ingredients in your pantry and then give you suggestions on what to make for dinner with what you have on hand and what extra you may need to complete the recipe. So here are my skills, put out here on the internet, hoping through this exercise I can discover my new dream and what I need to do to get there.

As a daughter and friend I have learned respect, love, compassion, empathy, how to be emotionally supportive and how to be supported.

As the younger sister of two older brothers I’ve learned to be strong, fast, and talk to make myself heard.

As an athlete I have learned teamwork, loyalty, persistence, hard work, dedication, determination and cooperation.

As a person living with Rheumatoid Arthritis I’ve learned strength, tolerance, patience,  how to overcome obstacles and how to rest.

In my professional life before law school I gained a whole different set of skills. I became a trainer, mentor, organizer, strategic thinker, diplomat, analyst, recruiter, cross cultural communicator and leader.

As a lawyer I have learned to defend, argue, pay attention to detail, write, help, speak, protect, analyze, research and conduct thorough background checks on babysitters.

As a cook I have become more creative, spontaneous and confident. I can make a cheese sauce while helping 2 year old twins fingerpaint and braiding Barbie’s hair for my 4.5 year old.

As a host for the holidays, dinner parties, kids birthday parties I have learned planning, time management, conversation, and board game skills.

As a wife (for 10 plus years) I have learned to cooperate, communicate, be humbled and be a partner.

As a mother, through successes and failures, I have learned to multi-task, improvise, be patient, bite my tongue, gain stamina, sing the Thomas the train theme song in a British accent, get 3 kids and myself out the door before 8 am fully clothed, fed and covered in sun screen and to have a sense of humor.

As a food blogger, I have learned a different style of writing and photography and found a new creative outlet.

Each part of life creates different skills, teaches you lessons, like when you burn a pie or put too much salt in your sauce, next time you have a better sense of what to do to improve it. After all my successes and challenges I am ready for that “dream” job. What that dream job is however, I’m not sure.

Thrown together, what can I do now with skills from my “pantry”? What “recipes” can I create?

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I could be a human rights scholar, practicing attorney, chef, food blogger or whatever I set my mind to, but as with getting a home cooked meal on the table each night, there are obstacles in the path: childcare costs, house payments and fear of the unknown.  How do I find a job where I can help people, feel as though I’ve advanced in my career, get paid what I am worth, have flexibility to be there for my children when needed and still make it home before dinner, when I don’t have time to properly network or do informational interviews?

What are your thoughts? (Give Marie advice by answering my poll at Honestly, Now) Anyone you'd introduce Marie (pronounced MAree) too? Any food-related start-ups in search of well-qualified attorney? Any interim baby steps you'd recommend Marie take?

Marie Ericson moved to the Boston area just over a year ago after 8 years in Seattle and 8 years in Washington, DC. Her family initially moved to the Boston area from South Africa in the late 70s. The move became permanent and she became a U.S. citizen. Going to college in Washington DC, she started a career in international development. However, 4 years later law school called her name and she and her husband decided to make it an adventure and move out to Seattle for her to attend the University of Washington, School of Law. She became a lawyer in 2006, became a parent for the first time in 2007 and again (times 2) in 2010. In between she practiced immigration law, worked at a non profit running legal clinics, stayed at home with her daughter and started her cooking blog. When she found out she was having twins, they decided that the time was right to move back to the East Coast to be closer to family. She is currently staying at home with her 2 year old twin boys and 4.5 year old daughter.

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